The AFC North leading Pittsburgh Steelers will play host to their former AFC Central rivals, the Jacksonville Jaguars, on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field. On Sunday the top two pass defenses in the NFL square off as the Jaguars rank first in the NFL, allowing only 147 yards per game and the Steelers rank second only giving up an average of 154 yards per game. Sunday’s game seems to be a game that will come down to the legs of Leonard Fournette and Le’Veon Bell in a matchup of two of the league’s top ten rushers.
Blake Bortles at this point of his career is the true definition of a hot and cold quarterback. Here is a barometer of the Jags success based on how he plays. When Bortles throws for 200 yards and does not commit a turnover the Jaguars are 2-0, when Bortles does commit a turnover and throws less than 200 yards the Jaguars are 0-2. The Jaguars are without their top wide receiver Allen Robinson, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, but still have solid weapons in Marquise Lee (16 catches), Allen Hurns (13 catches), and Fournette (12 catches) coming out of the backfield.
The game plan on offense for the Jaguars is to set the tone in the running game with Fournette and former Jets and Saints running back Chris Ivory, who is averaging 3.9 yards per carry, which is actually higher than Fournette’s 3.4 YPC. Another point of emphasis is to continue the trend of getting points on their opening drive, which they have done in every game thus far in the 2017 season. The Jaguars are not a team, save for the game in London against the Ravens, that will score in bunches so getting an early lead and keeping to their run first game plan will be important against a team with the firepower of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Jaguars have invested a substantial amount of money in their defense over the past few seasons, by bringing in free agents such as defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive end Calias Campbell, safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gibson, and CB A.J. Bouye. They’ve also drafted DE Donte Fowler, LB Miles Jack and CB Jalen Ramsey. The results have been mixed so far in 2017. While the Jaguars rank on top of the NFL against the pass and lead the lead the league in sacks as a team with 18, the Jaguars rank dead last in the league in rushing yards allowed and yards per rush. The Jags last week allowed runs of 75, 66 and 33 yards in their loss against the New York Jets.
What the Jaguars will want to do on defense is put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger using their down lineman without having to blitz. That would enable them to use their back seven to scheme and control Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant (if he plays) and Bell in the passing game. Both Miles Jack and Paul Posluszny are two of the more instinctive and sure tackling linebackers in the league. However, the Jaguars are susceptible to allowing wide running lanes, as seen last week in New York and in Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans. Bell’s patience in the backfield could pay off on two or three potential plays during this particular game.
The Jaguars proved last week that they are not ready to handle prosperity and that they will play to the level of their competition, as is the case of most young teams. That being said, they will get up for the Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday to use as a measuring stick. However, the Steelers are the better team at this point and they will use the legs of Le’Veon Bell and a defense that will force a couple of timely turnovers to overcome the Jaguars as they pull away in a mostly competitive game. Steelers win 24-14.